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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Horses : Tang Sculpture of a Horse
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Tang Sculpture of a Horse - H.695
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 25.5" (64.8cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Painted Terracotta

Location: United States
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The great influence of the horse throughout the history of China cannot be underestimated. In fact, the ancient expansion of the Chinese Empire was due in large part to the horse. The rapid mobility of horse allowed for quick communication between far away provinces. Likewise, the military role of horses aided in the conquest and submission of distant lands. The need to import stronger, faster steeds from Central Asia (as opposed to the local Mongol pony) led to the creation of the Silk Road. The importance of the horse in the history and culture of China can be viewed, in part, through the artistic legacy of this great civilization. In sculpture, painting, and literature, horses were glorified and revered. Horses were believed to be related to mythological dragons, reflecting their sacred status within society. During the Tang Dynasty, the adoration of the horse can be seen through their burial art. Horse models excavated from mausoleums of the period are among the most splendid and easily recognizable works of Chinese art. This impressive, large sculpture of a horse still retains much of its original white pigment in tact. However, even more impressive, are the faint polychrome lines that represent the harness and headstall. A hole in the rear and a groove along the mane would have once presumable been filled with real horsehair that has vanished over the ages. When one imagines this horse as it might have originally appeared, with vibrant hues and a mane and tail of real horsehair, the illusion would have been uncanny. This horse steps forward, the muscles of the legs carefully defines. Both the proportions of this horse and its non-removable saddle suggest its origin near Xian (the modern name for the ancient Tang capital once known as Chang’an). This gorgeous sculpture is a testament to the admiration and adoration the Chinese had for this marvelous creatures. Although they were an integral part in the expansion and defense of the empire, they were equally regarded for their beauty and grace as revealed by this sculpture. - (H.695)


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